Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for the first two episodes of Star Trek: Picard, as well as for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
Last week I wrote a post in which I began theorising about the story of Star Trek: Picard. I didn’t intend for it to become a weekly series, but I think it probably will be. I’ll be updating my theories after each new episode, as well as deleting theories that seem to have been debunked, and adding new ones as I come up with them!
Let’s start with those theories that Maps and Legends debunked.
Number 1: The Romulans who attacked Dahj were the Tal Shiar.
In my last theory post I said that this theory, out of all of my pet theories for Star Trek: Picard, was the most likely to be correct… oops.
The Romulans who attacked Dahj are now suspected to be the Zhat Vash. I also said that we’d only seen the face of one of Dahj’s attackers, so the fact that he was Romulan might not mean that all of the attackers are – it could have been a multi-faction collaboration to take down synthetics, perhaps a group enforcing the ban. But the discussion of the Zhat Vash in Maps and Legends seems to confirm that the people who killed Dahj – and those hunting Soji – are Romulan.
They may, however, be getting help from Starfleet itself. Lieutenant Rizzo is an undercover Romulan agent – this much was also confirmed in the episode – but her handler, Commodore Oh, is much more ambiguous. She absolutely could be a Romulan – but it’s just as likely she’s a Vulcan and is simply conspiring with the Zhat Vash.
Number 2: The attack on Dahj (and the hunting of Soji) are in retaliation for what happened on Mars.
When speculating on the motives that Dahj’s attackers had, I said that they may have been seeking revenge for the synthetics’ attack on Mars. This wasn’t so much because Romulan lives were lost – 90,000 people died in the attack, and it’s conceivable that Romulans were among them as the fleet was destined to help Romulus – but because the loss of the fleet led to many more deaths in the supernova.
That was my theory, and it made a certain kind of sense. It would have depended, of course, on what happened in the aftermath of the attack. The Federation pulled out of helping the Romulans, despite Picard’s fleet being intended to save 900 million lives. Surely not all of those lives were lost as a result, but even if Picard managed to assemble another fleet, potentially fewer lives were saved.
However, the Zhat Vash’s motivations are much more clear-cut: Romulans have a longstanding fear and hatred of synthetic life, and the Zhat Vash amplify that. They have, for centuries, it seems, hunted down and killed synthetics – and not just in Romulan territory. There was mention of Zhat Vash operations in Gorn and Klingon space as well, and of course in Federation territory as we saw.
With a “galactic treaty” now prohibiting synthetic life, the Zhat Vash should be feeling pretty smug – this is a huge victory for their cause, at the end of the day. Given that they’re specialists in hunting synthetics, it’s at least possible that they see themselves as enforcers of the ban, or even that other governments have requested their help in getting rid of any remaining or undercover synths.
So those were the debunked theories. Now let’s take a look at some theories which are still at the very least possible – even if they’re unlikely! Some of these you may remember from last time, others are new based on what we saw in Maps and Legends.
Number 1: Starfleet is conspiring with the Zhat Vash.
Who is Commodore Oh? Maps and Legends implied that she, like Lieutenant Rizzo, is a Romulan agent. But is this really the case? We saw a Vulcan emblem on her desk, which could be part of her act, but it could also be a subtle hint to the audience of her true identity.
I mentioned this previously, but a Commodore is a very high ranking position for an enemy agent. It’s plausible that the Zhat Vash would have been able to plant a fake Lieutenant, but a Commodore? And not just any Commodore – one in a senior position in Starfleet security with a responsibility for protecting Earth itself? It’s possible, but I think it’s more likely that Commodore Oh is a Vulcan.
If she is, then she’s part of the anti-synthetic conspiracy along with the Zhat Vash – and a collaborator.
If it turns out that Commodore Oh is in fact a Romulan, then I still believe that there’s some merit to the theory that some in Starfleet are co-conspirators, because it would raise questions about who helped her infiltrate Starfleet and who helped elevate her to a senior position.
Number 2: Picard put together another fleet and still managed to save many Romulan lives.
Why are Laris and Zhaban so loyal to Picard? It seems that they’re ex-Tal Shiar operatives (or at least that Laris is), so why would they be so steadfastly loyal to a retired Starfleet officer as to live at his home on Earth?
In the first trailer for Star Trek: Picard, a voiceover says that Picard put together “the greatest rescue armada in history”. This absolutely could be referring to the fleet that was destroyed in orbit of Mars… but if that fleet was destroyed, would it really have gone down as the greatest in history? If it never left its home base it seems unlikely to be remembered as such. Given that, it’s at least possible that Picard was able to pull some strings with other factions and acquire ships to use in a new rescue armada.
When Starfleet pulled the plug and refused to rebuild the lost ships we know Picard was furious and resigned in protest. But the timings of these events is unclear. Mars was attacked fourteen years before the events of the show, but in Remembrance the supernova is stated to have taken place exactly ten years ago. So there was a span of time in between the destruction of the fleet and the supernova in which Picard – either as a Starfleet admiral or not – could have done something else to help the Romulans.
It’s possible he could have used friendships with people like Spock, or his relationship with factions like the Klingon Empire, Bajorans, or Tamarians to help him put together a fleet. Picard made first contact with a number of species during his tenure aboard the Enterprise-D, and also offered help and assistance to many others. There will have been people and factions throughout the Alpha and Beta Quadrants who “owed him a favour”, if you will, and if he called those favours in he could’ve built up a decent sized fleet.
The only evidence we really have, however, that Picard went above and beyond to help the Romulans is the unwavering loyalty of Laris and Zhaban. And it’s possible that whatever he did to win their trust was something specific to the two of them rather than something so grand in scope.
Number 3: The ban on synthetic life includes sentient holograms like The Doctor from Voyager.
In previous iterations of Star Trek, the term “synthetic” was rarely, if ever, used. When referring to Data and others, the preferred term had been “android”, and even in The Original Series this was the word that was used. So why has the word “synthetic” come into play?
“Synthetic life” is a much broader term than simply “android life”; it suggests a wider category of artificial life forms which would include AIs and, crucially, self-aware holograms. If this is the case, then Voyager’s Doctor could be among those forcibly shut down in the aftermath of the attack on Mars.
I mentioned in my last theory piece that Index, the hologram at the Starfleet archive visited in Remembrance, seemed to be giving a few very subtle hints that she had a greater understanding of what was going on, and may have been sentient. This time I’m extending this theory to say that sentient holograms are banned under the “galactic treaty”.
As an interesting note, Robert Picardo (the actor who played The Doctor in Voyager) was reported to have said he’d be interested in having a role in a potential second season of Picard, back while Season 1 was still in early production. Some people seem to have taken these reports as confirmation that he definitely will have a role, but after looking into it I couldn’t see anything solid. If he does come back, however, it could be an indication that this theory is incorrect – or it could be an interesting plot thread for Season 2 if the “galactic treaty” is overturned.
Number 4: The synthetics were hacked.
After the opening scene in Maps and Legends, where an android named F8 is shown during the events of the attack on Mars, I think we can treat this one as much more likely.
During a work shift, F8 pauses, appears to receive a transmission or to be processing new information, and then immediately begins to take down the Martian defence network at least in his sector. Moments later the attack on Mars unfolds.
F8 was in a room with several humans at that moment, and if he’d suddenly been overcome by an urge to rebel, starting by attacking them would make more sense. The attack on Mars was a coordinated action against a deliberate target – all of the synthetics acted together.
The work crew with F8 describe him as “compromised”, which I think sounds like they’re describing a hack or that he’s under the control of someone else.
Why didn’t the synthetics continue their attack? With powerful ships under their command, and knowledge of Starfleet defences, they could have proceeded to attack Earth and other targets in the Sol system. They could have also kept the ships that they’d commandeered and left the system, but instead it seems that they all committed suicide after the attack was successful – could this be someone trying to cover their tracks by preventing the synths being forensically studied?
I think the primary culprits are Section 31 and the Zhat Vash, or another Romulan faction opposed to Federation help. Last time I did mention a few others who could be responsible – the Borg, the Klingons, or the Dominion – but these seem less likely given the show’s focus on the Romulans and the synths.
Section 31 would be an interesting choice. We’ve just seen a Section 31 storyline in Discovery, and production has supposedly begun on the Section 31 spin-off series with Michelle Yeoh and Shazad Latif. So from a production point of view, there’s a reason to keep Section 31 in the minds of viewers. They are also a faction who are not above such things – they infected Odo and his people with a disease that would have wiped them out, after all. Covering their tracks by using hacked synthetics is also something we could imagine Section 31 doing, and if they believed helping the Romulans to be a mistake, they’d be prepared to take any action to stop it, including killing Federation citizens.
However, the Zhat Vash could also be to blame. From their point of view, the Federation’s continued development of androids would be abhorrent. And as people like Dr Maddox got better and better at building them – to the point where whole work crews made up solely of androids could be rolled out – then they may have felt they had no choice but to act. By attacking only ships designed to aid Romulus, rather than Earth itself, perhaps they felt that the risk of triggering a war if they were caught was reduced. They may have also been opposed to Federation help. However, if the Zhat Vash are as staunchly anti-synthetic as they claim to be, would they have had the knowledge to hack them?
Number 5: Bruce Maddox caused the attack on Mars – probably by accident.
Dr Maddox going missing is an interesting story point. Dr Jurati and others stayed at the Daystrom Institute, continuing to work on synthetic life if only from a theoretical point of view, so there’s no reason Maddox couldn’t have done so. But Dr Jurati says that he “disappeared” – not that he resigned or was fired, but just vanished.
Commodore Oh expressed surprise that Maddox is still alive, but given her clandestine nature she may know more than she’s let on about that. I don’t think Maddox’s name would have been referenced so many times in the first two episodes if we weren’t going to learn more about him and what happened to him – a single name-drop would have been a fun little easter egg for fans of The Next Generation, but the continued discussion of him suggests he will have a bigger role.
I think we’re going to learn that Dr Maddox did something wrong in the run up to the attack on Mars – something which left the door open to the synthetics being hacked. And that his disappearance and continued work on androids isn’t merely because he’s someone dedicated to that idea, but because he has an incredible sense of guilt over what happened, and he wants to prove that not all synthetics are bad – and that what happened won’t be repeated.
It’s also possible, but far less likely in my opinion, that Maddox was deliberately involved in the attack. He may have been working with Section 31 – if they are the culprits – to prevent Federation help going to the Romulans.
Brian Brophy, the actor who portrayed Maddox in The Next Generation, hasn’t made any statement regarding the new series that I could find, nor is he confirmed to be among the cast.
Number 6: The Trill doctor is going to end up assimilated.
This one seems almost a given considering the amount of foreshadowing present in Maps and Legends! The Trill doctor who meets Soji aboard the Artifact – I had to look up her name, apparently it’s Naáshala Kunamadéstifee – is nervous about her first shift. Soji reassures her several times, telling her that the Romulans’ warnings are just “drama”, and telling her she will be fine.
It’s a cliché from the horror genre, but almost any time a non-main character is in this situation they end up meeting a nasty end. Aboard a Borg cube – even a disabled one – surely this means assimilation.
Further foreshadowing came from the Romulan guard himself, saying that once in the “grey zone” the assembled researchers should assume anything they don’t personally know to be safe is “malignant”, and of course there was also the sign hanging in the checkpoint area which was featured prominently on screen – saying it had been 5843 days since anyone was assimilated. While this should be reassuring, what it actually does is remind us, as the audience, that assimilation is still a possibility.
With Soji working to dismantle dead Borg drones, could she end up finding her new Trill friend on her operating table before too long? I wonder. In any case, this character seems almost certain to wind up assimilated – or meeting a similarly unpleasant end.
Number 7: Picard’s terminal illness is Irumodic Syndrome.
This disease was first mentioned in All Good Things, the finale of The Next Generation. And while I’m sure I wasn’t alone in speculating prior to Star Trek: Picard’s premiere that his illness might come into play, we got confirmation in Maps and Legends that Picard is indeed in the early stages of a terminal condition.
Dr Benayoun, who Picard served with prior to taking command of the Enterprise-D, brings him the bad news, and while Irumodic Syndrome is not mentioned by name, there were two hints from this conversation that it’s what we’re dealing with.
Firstly, Picard says that he knew that the issue in his parietal lobe could become a problem – a nod to his time-travelling adventures in All Good Things, I’m sure. And secondly, Dr Benyaoun refers to the group of potential conditions as “syndromes” – another clear nod. While there hasn’t yet been a formal diagnosis, it’s looking likely that Irumodic Syndrome will be mentioned before too long.
The only question I have from this, really, is why Picard didn’t tell his doctor about this possibility. He knew, thanks to Q’s actions, that Irumodic Syndrome was at the very least a possibility, yet it seems to have taken Dr Benayoun wholly by surprise. There may be a reason why he chose not to mention it, but you’d think he might’ve wanted to provide his doctor with that information so that the necessary tests could be run and the situation could be monitored.
Number 8: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces are a deliberate sign from their creator.
Why would Bruce Maddox – or whoever is responsible for Dahj and Soji’s creation if it isn’t him – give them each a necklace which would be immediately recognised by anyone who works in the android creation field? Given the ban on synthetic life, it seems like he painted an unnecessary bullseye on Soji and Dahj – and that may even be how the Zhat Vash were able to track them down.
I felt that the necklaces were actually quite weak props, probably the least visually interesting of the major props seen thus far in Star Trek: Picard, simply because of their understated design – they look to me like cheap costume jewellery. And honestly, learning more about the necklaces and seeing how important Soji’s is to her just amplified that feeling. Because they’re so bland from an aesthetic point of view, it made Picard’s interest in Dahj’s necklace seem quite forced in Remembrance.
However, from an in-universe point of view, if someone is manufacturing illegal androids using illegal methods, why would that person then provide both androids with a very obvious visual symbol – something so (allegedly) distinctive as to be eye-catching even to someone not aware of its meaning? It seems completely illogical – unless Dahj and Soji’s creators are trying to communicate with someone, or otherwise use the symbol to show off or make some other point.
From a story point of view it made sense in Remembrance; the necklace served as a clue for Picard and Dr Jurati to begin to unravel what was going on – and set the stage for them tracking down Soji. However, unless there’s more to it than meets the eye it doesn’t make a lot of sense for an android builder to do that.
So that’s it. At least for now anyway, those are my theories. As I said last time, they could all be wrong – but I’m feeling good about the synthetics being hacked! Then again, I said last time that I was confident in the Tal Shiar being responsible for the attacks and that didn’t pan out! So take the above with a pinch of salt. And after all, this is only for fun!
Theorising and speculating about a show with so much mystery is all part of the experience of watching it, and thus far I’ve really enjoyed the return to the 24th Century that Star Trek: Picard has afforded us. Friday can’t come soon enough!
The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. The first two episodes of Star Trek: Picard are available now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.